Hansi Flick staying as Germany coach despite World Cup flop

December 7, 2022 GMT
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Germany's head coach Hansi Flick reacts during the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Germany's head coach Hansi Flick reacts during the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s coach is staying, the head of its league is not.

The German soccer federation maintained its trust in Hansi Flick as national team coach on Wednesday despite the disappointing World Cup performance.

Separately, German soccer league chief executive Donata Hopfen will leave her position at the end of the month after reaching a mutual agreement to cut short her three-year contract because of what the league said was “differing ideas about the further strategic direction of the company.”

Hopfen’s departure — unrelated to the World Cup — after less than a year in charge had been expected amid simmering issues of discontent among Bundesliga clubs and teams from the second division.

Flick’s future was more uncertain following Germany’s early World Cup exit, its third straight disappointing performance at a major tournament, and the former Bayern Munich coach was under pressure going into Wednesday’s meeting with federation president Bernd Neuendorf and vice president Hans-Joachim Watzke.

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Neuendorf said afterward the body has “full confidence” in Flick to lead the team through the 2024 European Championship, which Germany is scheduled to host and which Neuendorf described as a “great opportunity” for the future of soccer in the country.

Flick left the meeting without a word, but was quoted in a statement from the federation.

“We as a team can achieve much more than we showed in Qatar,” Flick said in the statement. “We missed a big opportunity there. We’ll learn our lessons from it.”

Flick said he was optimistic about Euro 2024 and that he has confidence in the path Neuendorf and Watzke agreed to.

“We want all of Germany to rally behind the national team again at the 2024 European Championship at home,” said Flick, who faced criticism for his team selection and tactics against group rivals Japan, Spain and Costa Rica in Qatar.

Mistakes in defense, where Flick was unable to settle on his preferred back four, and an inability to put away chances cost Germany a place in the knockout round.

Germany’s record under Flick was also poor before the tournament. Flick took over from Joachim Löw last year after Germany’s second-round exit from the European Championship and has a contract through Euro 2024.

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The federation still needs a replacement for Oliver Bierhoff, who ended an 18-year stint Monday when he agreed to resign as managing director of Germany’s national soccer teams and academy. Bierhoff might not have a direct replacement.

“We have agreed to discuss the future structure of this area of responsibility first within the federation in order to make a decision then on personnel,” Neuendorf said.

Bierhoff is the only casualty so far from Germany’s group-stage exit from the World Cup in Qatar, the team’s second straight embarrassing failure in soccer’s biggest tournament. Germany also was eliminated from the same stage at the 2018 World Cup as defending champion.

Hertha Berlin general manager Fredi Bobic was a reported candidate to take over from Bierhoff, though he said Wednesday he was “very comfortable at Hertha.” Bobic, who has a contract through 2024 with the Berlin club, did not rule himself out, however.

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Flick appeared to criticize the federation for Bierhoff’s exit on Tuesday, when he said both he and his coaching staff “are having a hard time imagining how the gap left by Oliver’s departure can be closed.”

Hopfen took over from Christian Seifert in January as the first female chief executive of Germany’s top two soccer divisions but struggled to impose her vision or resolve long-standing questions on issues such as the league’s 50+1 rule limiting the role of outside investors, marketing at home and abroad, and the sale of media rights.

Hopfen said in a social media post on Linkedin that she did not receive the support she needed from the league.

“I came into this job, like many before me, from the outside, as a non-player, as a woman with a clear plan on how the league can be led into the future: digitally, internationally and with strong partners and associates,” Hopfen said. “Such a transition is a feat of strength and requires courage. For all that you need staying power and the support and joint action of all stakeholders. I didn’t feel that anymore in the end.”

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